The Indian Navy’s Boeing P-8I aircraft commenced operations from INS Hansa, Goa. The Navy has inducted two more Poseidon 8I maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft, in a boost to its surveillance capabilities in the Indian Ocean in the face of China’s increasing forays into the region. The two aircraft, manufactured by US aerospace major Boeing, arrived in India on December 30, officials said on Tuesday.
“The Indian Navy’s Boeing P-8I aircraft commenced operations from INS Hansa, Goa with two aircraft arriving on December 30. The aircraft were inducted after the fitment of indigenous equipment and flight acceptance trials,” Indian Navy spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal said. On arrival, the two aircraft were welcomed by a MiG 29K formation, he said.
The Indian Navy had acquired the first batch of eight P-8I aircraft in 2013. The aircraft are stationed at INS Rajali, Arakkonam. “The second batch of four additional aircraft will be based at Indian Naval Air Squadron 316, to be commissioned at INS Hansa,” Madhwal said.
The existing fleet of P-8Is is extensively deployed to keep track of the movement of Chinese ships and submarines in the Indian Ocean region. The P-8I, based on the Boeing next-generation 737 commercial aeroplanes, is a variant of the P-8A Poseidon used by the US Navy.
A fleet of the P-8Is was also deployed to carry out surveillance on the movement of Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh in 2020. To boost its surveillance mechanism, the Indian Navy had taken on lease two Sea Guardian drones from an American defence major over a year ago.
India has also stepped up groundwork on a long-conceived proposal to procure 30 multi-mission armed Predator drones from the US for the three services at an estimated cost of over USD 3 billion.
The medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) Predator-B drones, manufactured by US defence major General Atomics, are capable of remaining airborne for around 35 hours and can hunt down targets at land and sea.
The remotely piloted drones, also known as MQ-9 Reaper, can be deployed on a range of missions including surveillance, reconnaissance, intelligence gathering and destroying enemy targets.